FT Top 100 Films
45: MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN
If Brian is not the Messiah, just a naughty boy, then this is not so much a film as a collection of rather good quotes strung together in a facsimile of a religious satire. As satire it is stupidly broad. As a film it is really rather badly made (HALLO – MR TERRY JONES). But as a collection of skits and gags about religion, plus the usual Monty Python nonsense of blokes being dressed up as women – well its about as good as you are going to get.
The idea behind the Life Of Brian is admittedly terrific. Its a year zero (or year 33AD) Zelig, full of Brian being mistaken for some sort of saviour and – on the whole – denying it. Not blasphemous of course, except perhaps the idea that the people were so zealous and pissed off they would claim anybody for a Messiah. Indeed the lack of blasphemy is possibly a let down. How radical were the Monty Python troup of they could not face telling serious jokes about Christianity (they did get round to this a bit later in the Meaning Of Life, but this was a better opportunity). However given the choice of watching this verses the Passion, I know which one I would prefer.
Oddly the final sequences of Brian matches nicely with the ending of The Passion. In Gibson’s flick Jesus has been tortured constantly for about two hours before he finally gets nailed up on the cross. Brian has a lot less flaying, but – and here is the key point – he didn’t do it. If Jesus’s crime was being the son of God, and he didn’t deny it, then at least his sentence was justified. But Brian, poor sod, gets crucified for no reason at all. Not only that but even though Calviezel has barely any skin left on him at the end of The Passion, he has not had to put up with the real torture that Graham Chapman’s Brian does. Gibson is far to literal in his interpretation. You can hurt the body, but you cannot break the spirit. Unless of course you have a massed choir led by that knob-end Eric Idle singing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life strung up next to you. Now that is torture.